Sheffield United 1-1 Millwall: The Talking Points from Bramall Lane
After Jake Cooper's added time equaliser cancelled-out Gary Madine's earlier strike and denied Sheffield United victory, The Star's James Shield identifies some of the major talking points to emerge from today's game, which also saw John Egan sent-off during the closing stages,.
United's manager raced onto the pitch to confront referee David Webb following the final whistle. David McGoldrick appeared to have been fouled moments before Jake Cooper stooped to head home and, at that late stage, winning a free-kick would probably have enabled Wilder's team to see the contest out. But they did not get the decision and, with Millwall eventually equalising after Ben Marshall had missed a penalty, the 51-year-old thoughts on Webb's interpretation of events was plain for all to see.
The tactical change
When Chris Basham went off injured, the crowd and probably Millwall's coaching staff too were expecting to see Martin Cranie summoned from the bench. But United had other ideas. Instead it was Gary Madine who received the call, moving into attack alongside Billy Sharp as Chris Wilder switched from 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 formation with David McGoldrick dropping into central midfield and Mark Duffy edging out towards the flank. If nothing else, it proved United will not be predictable down the finishing straight.
Although Gary Madine was named as man-of-the-match, John Fleck was the driving force behind United throughout a nervous and ultimately heart-breaking afternoon at Bramall Lane, The midfielder's sheer determination, making the most of a poor pass intended for someone else and then driving through Millwall's defence, saw him make the goal which appeared to have secured a crucial victory until Jake Cooper's equaliser deep into added time.
What makes Norwood
A brief passage of play, very early in the first-half, underlined what makes Oliver Norwood the player he is. The Northern Ireland international's passing was unusually awry during the opening exchanges and one short pass, aimed towards McGoldrick, was intercepted by a Millwall player. But rather than hang his head or apologise, Norwood darted forward and won back the ball with a hard but fair tackle. The midfielder is a technical football and a tenacious one too.
A potentially major blow
With Jack O'Connell only just returning from injury, the last thing United wanted at such a critical stage of the campaign was to lose another of their over-lapping centre-halves. But that it exactly what happened in the first half when, after sustaining a knock as he stretched for the ball, Basham was unable to run-off the knock. Given his importance to Wilder's preferred system of play, the United manager will hope he recovers in time to face Nottingham Forest on Good Friday. With Hull City the destination 72 hours later, anything other than a minor knock could see Basham miss two vitally important games.
Billy Sharp joined Basham on the sidelines after undergoing treatment for an injury. Like Basham, United's captain and leading goalscorer this season is a crucial figure for Wilder. With John Egan seeing red for handling Tom Elliott's header on the line, the Republic of Ireland international will definitely be missing when United next take to the pitch. They will not want to be without two more key players.